ARLIS News-sheet, and the Art Libraries Journal, are, of course, packed with excellent reviews of new books, catalogues, artists’ books, etc., but are not the only source of quality reviews for art and architecture publications (and currently are available in print only). A wide range of online resources offering reviews and curated lists are useful to inform collection development work, for current awareness and to save a bit of time in developing subject knowledge. Moreover, well written reviews can be very enjoyable in themselves… some people are known to read The Guardian’s restaurant reviews every week despite hardly ever acting on them; and who can resist the dark side and not enjoy the guilty pleasure of a trashing review, almost on any subject?
There are several excellent sources of reviews for new art publications. The ARLIS/NA Reviews, edited by Doug Litts and Terrie Wilson, is published online bi-monthly, each issue containing between 10-15 reviews by art librarians. Both current issue and an archive of past ones (including the reviews section of Art Documentation back to 1996) are freely available on the ARLIS NA website.
CAA Reviews, published since 1998 by the College Art Association, offers a large number of reviews on titles covering all aspects of the visual arts, commissioned from specialist academics. It is available online to CAA members or by subscription, with the exception of some limited recent reviews. Also useful is its list of ‘recent books in the arts’, with titles published in the previous 3 months.
A similar publication, based in the UK, was Art Book. Published in print and online since 1994 by the Association of Art Historians, it ceased at the end of last year. The archive of previous issues is available from Wiley for subscribers.
A large proportion of specialist art, design and architecture journals (Architectural Review, Art History, Art Monthly, Art Review, Decorative Arts, Design Journal, History of Photography, Oxford Art Journal, etc.) include book review sections, occasionally part of the free-access content on their websites.
Many generalist reviews publications include art-related titles in their content, for instance the Times Literary Supplement (print and online, by subscription, with archive from 1994; historical archive 1902-2006 available as separate online database published by Gale, by subscription), the New York Review of Books (print and online, by subscription, with archive from 1963), the London Review of Books (print and online, by subscription, with archive from 1979), or Bookforum (print and online, by subscription, with archive from 1994), sister publication of Artforum. The Electronic Book Review is a free online journal of scholarly reviews (peer-reviewed), that publishes since 1994 essays and comments using a thread structure (Technocapitalism, End Construction, Image + Narrative, etc.) Quality newspapers, like the mentioned Guardian, still publish book reviews regularly, occasionally of art publications.
Times Literary Supplement
Times Literary Supplement Historical Archive
New York Review of Books
London Review of Books
Electronic Book Review
Library Journal (print and online, by subscription, with some recent reviews freely available) and Choice Reviews Online (published by the ALA Association of College and Research Libraries in print and online, available by subscription only) are examples of the many review sources addressed specifically at libraries and librarians, in both cases with some coverage of art related publications. The Book Review Index Online, a Gale database, is the most comprehensive source of reviews, indexing a wide selection of English language titles (currently ca. 700) from 1965. Art indexing databases (Art Index/Full Text, ARTbibliographies Modern, etc.) also list publication reviews.
Choice Reviews Online
Book Review Index Online
The love of lists is not universal but, from librarians to conceptual artists, a good list has many fans. Art publishers advertise new titles on their websites (although the information is not always completely objective or even accurate), and library book suppliers, online booksellers and commercial bibliographic data suppliers also provide listings and additional information (again, of variable quality) on new publications, and it’s often possible to set up personalised alerts to receive regular notification of these by email.
Curated lists, when created by experts (be that academics, curators or artists), are an ideal way of learning about new and old titles within a contextualised narrative. An excellent source for these is Printed Matter, the New York artists’ publications organisation. Its website offers a section of curated lists including Appropriation (Michalis Pichler), Group Work (Temporary Services), Mapping (Molly Quammen), etc. Distributors Artbook’s website contains a number of Curated Libraries, mostly of recent publications.
Curated lists, or annotated bibliographies, are also a useful way to promote your collections, particularly in areas of specialism or those deserving highlighting, and to encourage engagement with users, including by commissioning lists from them. A great example of the later are the Artists’ Guides to the Live Art Development Agency Study Room, created by performance artists like Franko B. (The Body in Performance) or Robert Pacitti (The More You Ignore Me The Closer You Get: notes on socially engaged practice). The Getty Research Guides and Bibliographies, written by their collection curators and researchers are another good example, covering topics from the History of Photography in China to Surrealism in South America.
Printed Matter: Curated Lists
Artbook: Curated Libraries
Live Art Development Agency Study Room: Artists’ Guides
Getty Library: Research Guides and Bibliographies
Reviews and curated lists have in common a focus on informed comment and a judgement of quality or significance within a wider context. Comprehensiveness, however, is the key ambition of the bibliography. Arnaud Desjardin, artist and publisher, curates the exhibition Please do not place drinks on vitrines or books (at the time of writing at the Focal Point Gallery, Southend; later this year at Bloomberg Space in London). Part of his ongoing research project (a.k.a. the book of books on artists’ books), it showcases examples of publications related to the artist’s book, and is an attempt to compile a comprehensive list of secondary literature on the subject from 1972 (date of Germano Celant’s seminal Book as Artwork) to date, at the same time as an enquiry on the uncertain relations between art and printed matter.
Please do not place drinks on vitrines or books (Focal Point Gallery, 18 April – 11 June 2011)
[Grandal Montero, G. (2011) Resources online: Publication reviews and curated lists. ARLIS News-sheet, no. 212, July-August, pp. 4-5.]